Hong Kong is not only a vibrant and populated urban center but also a city that is known for its modern architecture and as a major shopping destination. One of its greatest staples, however, is its cuisine, best described by diversity and flavor. Also known as the “World’s Food Fair,“ Hong Kong is a place best experienced through its many tastes. Whether you dine at world-class restaurants or buy a snack from the roadside stalls, you’ll find a blend of Cantonese, European, non-Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, and Korean influences. Join us on a flavorful adventure, as we explore the best traditional food in Hong Kong.
1. Dim sums (small servings of different dishes)
If you’ve ever been to Spain or have ever tried tapas, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Dim sums are the Chinese version of tapas, small servings of different traditional dishes. Dim sum is usually served in small steamer baskets or on small plates, and paired with hot tea. Some of the busiest restaurants steam them in advance and serve them in bamboo baskets, from big carts. Dim sum can vary from filled shrimp bites, braised chicken feet, or other meat or fish-based bites. They can also consist of dumplings filled with a variety of minced ingredients, including mushrooms, bamboo shoots, or egg white, and mixed with soy or oyster sauce, ginger, pepper, and other spices.
2. Char siu (Hong Kong-style barbecue pork)
Char siu is another traditional food in Hong Kong and consists of Cantonese-style barbecue pork that can be found in any roast meat shop. The recipe includes marinating the meat in a mix of soy sauce, honey, sugar, hoisin sauce, and a seasoning blend of five spices. It usually has a sweet flavor and tastes best when served with rice, but you can also enjoy it on its own, to get a better feel of its aroma and texture.
3. Black bean sauce clams
For those that prefer seafood and would like to see how traditional Hong Kong seafood tastes like, the best choice is black bean sauce clams. This classic Cantonese dish is prepared by stir-frying the clams in salty, fermented black bean sauce. The sauce tastes similar to the oyster sauce but has a saltier kick and a subtle cheesy taste. As an alternative, you can also find squid or different types of meat stir-fried in black bean sauce.
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Another staple in Hong Kong’s street food is the eggettes. Because they not only taste good but also look really good, they’ve become one of the most Instagrammable street foods in Hong Kong. You can opt for the classic version, or try one of the many reinvented versions of the traditional eggettes. It might take 20 minutes or more to wait for your eggettes to be ready, but they’ll be worth the wait. You can calm your sweet tooth with eggette flavors that range from apple pie to vanilla pudding and may include ice cream, cinnamon toppings, or orange jelly. Chocolate eggettes are also a big hit among the sweet options and go best with candied pineapple or orange. However, you can also opt for the salty version, and go for curry meat floss or Chinese sausage eggettes.
5. Roast goose
The roast goose in Hong Kong is prepared after a traditional Cantonese recipe that consists of roasting a whole goose with a mix of secret ingredients and then cutting it into smaller pieces and eating it with skin and soft bone. For a more savory aroma, it goes best with plum sauce. This dish is one of the most popular choices among tourists eager to try local, traditional cuisine.
6. Steamed chicken feet
While it might seem a bit unusual to foreigners, Hong Kong locals enjoy cooking and eating steamed chicken feet, which have become a traditional dish. Cooking the chicken feet is a lengthy process that takes between 3 and even 24 hours. First, they need to be boiled and then marinated, fried, or steamed. To give them flavor, cooks add ginger, parsley roots, and star anise. After such a long cooking process, the chicken feet become very soft and can easily be eaten. They’re rich in collagen and calcium, so they also have health benefits.
7. Stinky tofu
Stinky tofu is another traditional Chinese dish, which consists of fermented tofu. Due to the fermentation process, the tofu has a strong smell that makes it easily recognizable. You can eat it as a snack or a side dish and is usually found at roadside stands, rather than in restaurants, most likely due to its strong odor.
8. Fish balls
Another typical Hong Kong snack is the fish ball. The fish balls are made of fish meat, and are available in two varieties: the cooked option that consists of fried fish meat and can be found on the street at roadside stands, and goes well with both sweet and spicy sauces, and the raw fish version, used in hot pots and noodle soup, and available in supermarkets or local markets.
9. Pineapple bun
The name of this traditional Hong Kong food is somewhat misleading, as the only thing it has in common with pineapple is the shape. The pineapple buns don’t actually contain any pineapple but are a sweet type of bread made of sugar, egg, and flour. They’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. You can find pineapple buns in almost any bakery in Hong Kong, and they’re best enjoyed hot.
10. Clay pot rice
It wouldn’t be a traditional Hong Kong food list without rice, and it doesn’t get any better than clay pot rice, one of the heartiest comfort foods in Hong Kong. The secret behind this dish is that the rice is cooked in a clay pot, along with a number of different ingredients. Clay pot rice goes with anything from chicken, pork, mushrooms, or Chinese sausage. Before serving it, make sure you pour some sauce all over it, for more aroma.
Traditional Hong Kong cuisine - a feast for the senses
Traditional Hong Kong cuisine is definitely spectacular and undeniably unique. It combines all kinds of influences and includes some unusual food choices, but it is full of flavor and aroma. Besides checking the main landmarks on your Hong Kong bucket list, make sure you also try some of the food options above. After all, what better way to explore a country than through its food?
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